Chapter 1 : The Mission
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From the moment she woke up every morning to the moment she fell asleep at night, she felt the weight of fear, always threatening to crush her spirit into submission. She saw the oppressive shadows that lined the alleys and wondered which of they had eyes.
And she lived with the constant paranoia, the suspicion, and the loneliness that seemed to accompany everyone wherever they went.
Especially St. Mungo’s.
When Jane had signed up to be a Healer after she and her friends had taken their N.E.W.T.s, she’d had some grand notions about saving lives and working on the front lines. She’d thought that she would make a difference.
And she had – but not as much as she would have liked. There was nothing she could do about some of the dark magic that people came in afflicted with except make them comfortable and hope it didn’t kill them.
Those hopes were often in vain.
There was nothing she could do about the poisons with no antidote, or the poisons that they couldn’t identify, or the poisons for which they were just too late.
Barely a month into her period as a trainee, a boy she’d vaguely known at school had been wheeled in, suffering the effects of an unknown poison. He’d spent three days screaming in agony and coughing up blood before he’d died.
Two trainees had quit on the spot. It was too much for them.
Jane did not quit, but she’d never gone out to eat again, and she tested everything she was intending to consume. If there was one thing that she wanted to avoid, it was ending up like him.
The war had broken some people, and made others stronger. Jane fancied herself to be one of the latter, but it wasn’t always easy.
But today, for once, despite everything, Jane found herself in fairly good spirits as she left St. Mungo’s for the day. For the first time in four months, she was not been stuck on werewolf duty.
Healers dreaded the full moon. The night of the full moon and the day following it were invariably long and exhausting in the best of times, let alone in the current climate; at least a dozen victims of werewolf attacks were carted in, hanging on to life by a thread, and many more who came in on their own, often trying to pretend they’d been injured by something else to avoid registration.
And, a few times – though mercifully, never when she was on duty – the Healers had discovered that a patient already in St. Mungo’s for something else was a werewolf and hadn’t seen fit to mention it.
That was even worse, and just the knowledge that it could happen kept Jane’s nerves thoroughly on edge when she was on duty for the full moon.
But this month, it wasn’t her problem. This month, she did not have to deal with it.
When she got to her flat, she closed and locked the door behind her. She wasn’t labouring under any delusions that a lock would actually stop Death Eaters if they came to call, but so far, they didn’t seem to have much interest in a junior Healer.
As she threw together a quick dinner, she allowed her thoughts to drift toward Remus Lupin.
Jane had fancied Remus in their seventh year, but the relationship had never quite gotten off the ground. First he’d seemed to be all for it: they’d had a lovely first date in Hogsmeade, and he’d even given her flowers. Then the next thing she knew, he was telling her that it wasn’t going to work, that he wasn’t being fair to her, that…
So Jane had spent some time quietly fuming at him, and some more time forcing herself to get over him.
Then one night, after they’d left Hogwarts, her friends had come over to her flat for a drink or two. They’d all begun to wander out, and soon, without either of them really realising it, she and Remus had been left alone.
And one thing had led to another.
She could still remember his voice, telling her that he was sorry, that it wasn’t her, that he was just dangerous. She could still remember the way his lips had crashed against hers as his fingers tangled in her hair, emboldened by the firewhiskey they’d both been drinking. She could still remember peeling his clothing off as he helped her out of hers, and the way their hands had traversed one another’s bodies…
And then, barely a month later, he’d started sending her mixed signals again.
Since then, it had been a constant on-again, off-again sort of relationship that was rife with misunderstandings, secrets, and more hurt than she really wanted to deal with.
She’d tried to just move on. What was Remus to her, anyway? An old friend from school. Someone who she’d briefly been involved with. And that was all.
But that wasn’t all. Every time she saw him, the feelings had come rushing back, no matter how much she tried to stop them.
And she hated it.
There was a soft knock on the door, and she jumped. Grabbing her wand off the table, she crept toward the door and looked through the peephole.
It was Remus.
She cracked the door open. “Took you long enough.”
He smiled faintly. “Sorry. I got held up.”
Before she let him in, she asked, “Who was my favourite professor?”
“Kettleburn,” he said tiredly. Remus had always hated the identity checks. He stepped toward the door, but Jane stayed put and looked at him expectantly.
He sighed. “How did I feel when James got Head Boy and I didn’t?”
“Amused.” He nodded, and Jane closed the door to undo the chain and let him in.
Once he’d stepped inside and she’d shut the door securely behind him, he said, “It’s so stupid. If I was a Death Eater, I’d make sure I knew the answers to those questions before impersonating a person.”
Jane couldn’t help but agree, a little, but at the same time, not all Death Eaters had brains or the patience to impersonate someone right. Better to be safe than sorry.
After hovering awkwardly in the entryway for a minute, she gestured toward the living room. They entered, and she made a beeline toward the couch. After a moment of hesitation, he joined her there, and though he was perhaps a little further from her than he really needed to be, she still felt a faint burst of optimism.
“How are you?” she asked worriedly. “You look sick.”
“I’m fine,” Remus said. “Just a little under the weather.”
He was always ‘a little under the weather,’ and Jane didn’t like it one bit. Ignoring the problem was how curable or treatable illnesses became completely unmanageable. “You should let me try to figure out what’s wrong,” she said for what felt like the millionth time. “Just—”
“No,” he said, cutting her off. “Jane, I’m fine.” She pursed her lips together, and he forced a smile. “Really. It’s just a cold. I haven’t been sleeping well.”
That was something she could understand. She hadn’t been sleeping well, either. She didn’t see how anyone could, these days.
“Sorry,” she said after a moment. “I just…”
“Worry?” he supplied when her voice trailed off. “I know. But there’s nothing wrong with me.” He hesitated, and then shifted closer to her on the couch. “How are you?” he asked softly.
Jane sighed and closed her eyes. After a moment, she felt his hand gently stroking her hair. “Bone tired,” she whispered. She let her head drop onto his shoulder, hoping that he wouldn’t pull back from the intimacy, as he often did.
But not tonight. Tonight, his hand continued to stroke her hair, and he didn’t pull back at all.
“Is…” He cleared his throat. “Is there anything I can do?”
She nuzzled closer to him. He stiffened a little, but he didn’t move away. “Do you want to do something tomorrow night? Just the two of us?”
Remus did not reply. She glanced up at him, and saw that he was staring off into the distance. “I… I can’t,” he said. “There’s something I need to do tomorrow. For the Order.”
“Come afterward,” she urged. Even when she wasn’t working, Jane hated werewolf night. She always found herself in need of some distraction.
Some of her least pleasant memories as a Healer had taken place during the full moon. Seeing Billy drown in his own blood was only one in many terrible memories of what happened when men turned into monsters.
“I don’t think I’ll be back in time,” he said. She pouted, and he sighed. “I’ll come by if I am. Just don’t wait up.”
Jane felt herself deflate. That was always what he said when he wasn’t going to be back.
She made herself remain calm and in control, at least on the outside.
If she didn’t, he would run. She knew that, from years of hard-won experience.
And Jane had come to discover that the only thing worse than having Remus was not having him.
He knew what she was thinking, however, and he muttered an apology.
The trouble was, Jane believed him. She knew that he was sorry. And she also knew that his being sorry didn’t make one damned bit of difference in the long run.
It never had before.
“How’s work?” he asked, clearly as much to change the subject as anything.
Work was not something that Jane wanted to think about. “I don’t want to talk about it,” she said. She felt a little guilty; she didn’t particularly want to talk about it, but she also knew that part of her not wanting to talk was motivated by the fact that she wanted to get back at him for not elaborating on his mission.
It was more than a little childish, but there it was.
He accepted her tone graciously and steered the conversation around to a different subject.
They had a perfectly nice evening together, despite everything, and it wasn’t until long after he had left that she retreated back into the kitchen to wash the dishes that had been left over from her dinner.
As she watched the sponge scrub away at her bowl and utensils, she mulled over the night in her head. It was the fourth time in a row that she’d seen Remus and not ended up storming out, wanting to kill him, or trying to curse him. That was something. She’d even had her head on his shoulder, and he hadn’t run screaming into the night. That was progress.
And it was a nice distraction from work.
There had been a reason Jane hadn’t wanted to talk about work with Remus – a reason that Jane didn’t want to think about work in general.
Patients were dying at St. Mungo’s. They were dying at an alarming rate, after they’d seemed to be recovering from whatever ailed them.
A disproportionate amount of them were muggleborns or affiliated with the Order.
And Dumbledore had tasked her with figuring out why.
So this was going to be a one-shot, but it's not anymore. It will be a full story. Another WIP.
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